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I know this is a strange name for a pen, but trust me it is fitting. Part way through I learned a very important safety lesson in pen making. I know many folks are trying pen making as a hobby or to bring in a little extra income. Pen turning for me has been both therapeutic and enjoyable. You watch an ugly piece of wood turn into a magnificent pen. I just want to put this out here so you don't have the same experience that I did. Keep reading and learn, it could save your life.

Step 1: My Pen Making Shop

My small project shop is in the corner of my basement. It's a very tiny area, but has all the needed tools. Safety is always at the forefront especially when using the lathe.

  • Face Shield
  • Safety glasses
  • Respirator
  • Gloves (for handling solvents)
  • Dust collector (shop vac)

I always wear a shop apron and short sleeved shirts when operating the lathe. Jewelry is not recommended to be worn while working with power tools. My wedding ring never comes off, and it's been through a lot so I still wear it. The key here is to use all your safety equipment no matter how small the task.

Step 2: Drilling the Pen Blanks

I began by mounting my pen blank in my lathe chuck and started drilling. I was saving time or didn't think of it so my respirator was not on my face. I was wearing my safety glasses at the time. As I drilled I noticed a very fine dust building up on the drill bit. I turned on my shop vac to catch the majority of the shavings. I went on to complete the drilling of the blank.

Step 3: Glue the Pen Tubes

Next I began gluing the brass pen tubes into the blanks. I noticed I had started coughing. It wasn't very long and I began having trouble breathing. I set the blanks aside to let them dry and went upstairs. Once I got to the top of the stairs I could hardly breathe. I was gasping and struggling to get air. Later when I described the symptoms I was told this was similar to an extreme asthma attack. I was able to make it outside and get some fresh air, and slowly but surely regained some breathing. At one point I thought I was going to pass out or even die. I could not get any air in. Several hours later I was somewhat normal again. Well...somewhat normal for me anyway.

Step 4: Breathing Again

After this experience I was convinced that I had come in contact with something toxic. I got on my computer and found this website http://www.wood-database.com/wood-articles/wood-allergies-and-toxicity/ I would recommend anyone in woodworking to look over this site. Sure enough when I looked at Cocobolo it listed irritant, sensitizer, nausea, asthma, and pink eye. It also listed as areas affected skin, eyes, and respiratory. The potency was very high for this wood. While looking at this I learned there are many woods that can affect the human body. This was an important lesson for me. In the future if I plan to work with a wood that is not native to my area I will check this list. As for me I will never work with Cocobolo wood again. It's a beautiful wood when finished, but not worth my life.

Step 5: Finished the Pen, It's Gorgeous

I never finished the Instructable on making the pen. I thought this safety Instructable was more important. I did get my courage up and donned my best safety gear and went on to finish the pen. The pen turned out fantastic, and I gave it to my wife as a reminder of the day she almost lost me to a piece of wood.

Woodworking is fun and rewarding as a hobby or a business. Just be sure to be safe in anything you do!!!

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Bio: Hi, my name is Rich and I'm just an amateur woodworker that wants to share some of my projects. Badlands Wood-N-Stuff is the name ... More »
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